Anyone who has used a pattern by The Sewing Workshop (Linda Lee) is likely familiar with the concept of tag board hem templates. Louise Cutting also uses them in the new Industry Insider Techniques DVD from Taunton Press. These are simply strips of heavy paper (tag board) cut to specific widths to make measuring and pressing hem depth a very quick process.
What you'll need:
Manila folder, standard size; ruler, marker and scissors or a cutting mat and rotary cutter.
Trim off the 'fold' creases near the bottom of the folder. I don't want to accidentally incorporate any lumps in my hem.
Cut the strips into various widths; whatever I thought I might use when hemming. Be sure to mark each strip with its exact width. Use a marker that won't come off on your fabrics (you will be using these in your hem fold while you are pressing) or else use a pencil. If you want to hang yours on a peg board, a hole punched in the end would also be a good idea.
I was able to cut templates for 1" - 2.5" in 1/4 inch increments, with a couple of 1/8" increments as well from just one folder. I could have made more if I had cut them in the vertical direction instead of horizontal, but I'll cut more if I need them, and I wanted a longer template. The tagboard from the folders should hold up well with typical use.
How to Use:
Of course you can simply insert the template into the hem crease, aligning edges, to make sure that the hem is pressed to the correct depth. But you can also use the templates to turn under the raw edge and hem in two steps. For example: let's say you wanted a 1 1/4" hem (finished depth), with about 1/4" raw edge turned under. You would use the 1 5/8" hem template first to set the actual hem crease. Once you had that crease, you would align the 1 1/4" template with the hem crease you'd created. Then you would press the raw edge toward the crease. Voila - you have a 1 1/4" hem, with 1/4" turned under. If you're like me, you might be scratching your head a bit at the math - wouldn't I use a 1 1/2" template first? No, you would use the 1 5/8", because that extra 1/8" will be taken up by the 'turn of the cloth." Does that make sense?
I do have my 'old faithful' Dritz EZ-Hem tool as well. I hate spending hours at the ironing board with a seam gauge just inching along. I like the templates better because they are thinner, and don't get hot like my EZ-Hem tool.